'Concerning trend': Toronto driver slapped with $615 ticket for watching TV on the road

In 2022, at least 66 people in Ontario were killed because of inattentive and distracted driving, despite strict laws

Traffic cop is talking with a driver.
"This lack of responsibility is inexcusable. Why do people learn these tough lessons only when they cause loss of life?" said one police officer following the news.

A “concerning trend” is taking over the streets of Toronto.

On Jan. 18, Toronto Police Services’ (TPS) traffic division reported an incident where a driver was caught watching TV while behind the wheel, by mounting their phone on the vehicle's dashboard.

It continues an alarming trend. In 2022, Toronto police issued approximately 8,700 tickets for distracted driving. Less than three weeks into the New Year, approximately 450 tickets have been issued, said a TPS spokesperson to Yahoo Canada.

Capturing these offences has been a focus for TPS, part of their "Big 4" known to cause death or serious injury collisions. Along with distracted driving, the Big 4 include aggressive and impaired driving, as well as speeding.

"As you can see by the number of tickets issued, unfortunately officers continue to see the offences occurring," said Toronto police Sgt. Melissa Kulik of Traffic Services to Yahoo Canada.

According to the Ontario Provincial Police, over 423 people died in 2022 in motorized vehicles and marine incidents. Of those 66 were the result of inattentive and distracted driving.

“When we look back at 2022, it was deadly,” said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt in a video posted to Twitter.

What are the laws for distracted driving in Ontario

While there are exemptions, in essence under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, a common driver is only able to use a display screen that shows information on the "conditions, use and and immediate environment of the vehicle" or "information on road or weather conditions." Audio controls, or other features from a connected hand-held device, are allowed but they can only display text or static images. The use of an ignition interlock device is also permitted.

It's important by law that the display screen does not move while the vehicle is in motion.

The common driver is not allowed to use a hand-held device while driving. There is the exception to "make, answer or end a cell phone call or to transmit or receive communication on a two-way radio." However, the device needs to be mounted, or attached to the person such as an earpiece, and can be easily accessible by a quick glance.

What are the penalties for distracted driving in Ontario

For those with a A, B, C, D, E, F, G and/or M license in Ontario, a first conviction of distracted driving results in a fine of $615-$1,000, three demerit points and a three-day suspension. A second conviction can see a fine up to $2,000, to go along with six demerit points and a seven-day suspension. While a third, and any further convictions, can result in a $3,000 fine, six demerit points and a 30-day suspension.

For those with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 license, you'll face the same fines, but instead of demerit points, you'll face longer suspensions, or even the cancellation of your license and removal from the Graduated Licensing System for a third conviction.

Based on 2022's statistics, it could lead to something far worse: taking someone else's life as a result of your undivided attention.

Evolving presences on the roads in 2023

In today's day and age, many cars are equipped with (large) display screens, allowing them to even broadcast entertainment services, such as TV shows.

Even without these features, a TPS spokesperson notes that drivers don't need display screens provided by the car manufacturers. Instead, drivers are using cell phones to watch and stream shows.

Following TPS' recent tweet detailing the 2023 incident, many took to Twitter to note that they've seen similar situations.

Others are blaming the manufacturers, or insisting that it doesn't pose as big of a threat as some might think.